JCK Asks…Melissa Joy Manning

Monkeying around with the worldly designer

It’s may not be her official motto, but Melissa Joy ­Manning thinks globally and acts locally. She studied design at the University of Barcelona and silversmithing at the Instituto Allende in Mexico. Her inspiration is all over the map: “The talismans of Mongolia and Tibet end up in my work a lot,” she says. “I also love anything from Papua New Guinea. And I have a personal collection of chieftain necklaces from the Philippines.” Yet the New York City–based designer, who operates a flagship in Berkeley, Calif., buys all her materials from domestic suppliers. So what is Manning’s motto? Sustainability and social responsibility. Plus extra-dirty martinis.

Monkey the terror

Age: 40

Number of years in the biz: 17

Number of employees you oversee: 6

Family/pets: Crazy Boston “Terror” called Monkey. He’s great for relieving stress; anytime anyone has a “moment” they go to Monkey.

Describe your personal style: Individual boho chic

Manning’s Tahitian pearl and pyritized ammonite earrings

First piece you ever designed: A ceramic necklace I made my mom in Montessori school. (She still has it!)

Favorite gemstones: Feldspars. Diamonds. I’m a lot fancier than people think.

Most unusual gemstone you’ve used: I was obsessed with pyritized ammonites for a minute. And cavancite. Who thought nature could make things so amazing?

Best advice you ever received: “Never do what the market dictates. Express your own vision and develop your own work. In doing this you’ll build a brand that will sustain your creativity.”

Manning’s earrings with citrine, druzy, jasper, fossil coral, and fossil bamboo

Worst piece of advice: When I first started I had a lot of people tell me that I wouldn’t be able to compete within the “bridge” market if I manufactured domestically and adopted a corporate credo of sustainability.

First job ever: Taking photos of kids at a day camp. I got to go on all of the adventures for free and document what I saw—I still can’t believe I got paid for that!

How did you get started designing jewelry? As a kid, my idea of play was making things. I spent a lot of time crafting outfits and accessories for my Barbies. It was just a matter of time before I left fimo and beads and moved on to metal and stones.

Manning’s gold stacking rings

If you weren’t designing jewelry, what would you be doing? I’d be a sociologist. I think human beings are insanely interesting.

Jewelry you’re wearing right now: Black diamond slice studs, half a gold bird earring in my second hole (my best friend, Amy, wears the other), lots and lots of stacking rings (11!), a vintage Memento Mori pinky ring, pink gold Cartier bracelet given to me for my 40th, my daily bangles and mixed metal tiny cuff

Courtesy of Diptyque

Five items on your desk right now: vitamin B12; Diptyque rose candle; one of my grandmother’s crystals that I inherited when she died; a sea urchin I found diving (miraculously it has half of its spines!); fossil wood given to me by an old design assistant

Five songs on your playlist: “Horchata,” Vampire Weekend; “Naked as We Came,” Iron & Wine; “Vanderlyle Cry Baby Geeks,” the National; “I Want a Little Sugar in My Bowl,” Nina Simone; “Table Top Joe,” Tom Waits

Courtesy of Random House

Exercise regimen: I walk to and from work, train three days a week, and spin. I look at my gym time as recess.

Guilty pleasure: The Kardashians. Khloe is my favorite. Yikes—I can’t believe I just admitted to that!

Drink (daytime/evening): Day: Peet’s coffee. Night: extra-dirty vodka martini. And water, of course!

First website you check every day (not your own!): NYTimes.com

Scent: Rose from Hermès

Book you’re reading: The Imperfectionists by Tom Rachman. It’s a stellar collection of human foibles.

Main means of transportation: Feet. Makes buying nice shoes justifiable.

Favorite movie: Anything by John Hughes. And ­Heathers. What ever happened to Christian Slater? He was hot!

Who’d play you in your life story? Drew Barrymore

Personal motto: I have two: “When you stop falling, you stop learning.” “Always, always follow your heart.”

More JCK Asks… on JCKonline.com:
+ JCK Asks…Katey Brunini
+ JCK Asks…Ippolita
+ JCK Asks…Temple St. Clair

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